Messi calls for unity at Barcelona

Barcelona's Lionel Messi has backed coach Ernesto Valverde

Barcelona had once again played great, led through goals by Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann, yet still managed to let it slip away.

Barcelona squandered one of their best performances of the season by conceding two late goals to Atletico Madrid, falling 3-2 in the semi-finals of the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia on Friday (AEDT).

For Barcelona, the chance to add a minor trophy from a mini-tournament played thousands of miles away is not the main worry.

The concern is Barcelona's odd knack of losing control of games that look like a sure victory - whether it's a question of overconfidence, a lack of fitness or just momentary lapses that cost the team dearly, the pressure is on coach Ernesto Valverde.

Messi and other team leaders defended Valverde, whose very good overall record at Barcelona has been blemished by shocking defeats.

"It's normal that when you lose and don't reach your objectives, and when our fans see that the team is not playing like they would like, that people talk and say things," Messi said.

"We have to be more united than ever, remain a strong group and get through this. This year we will try to play like we did today (before the late goals) and not commit childish errors like those we committed."

But that didn't stop the Spanish sports media reporting that Barcelona club officials met with midfield great Xavi Hernandez in Doha, Qatar, to probe him as a possible replacement for Valverde either now or next season.

The club confirmed to The Associated Press that their representatives met with Xavi, but said the meeting had already been arranged before the loss to Atletico and they would not elaborate on the nature of the meeting.

Xavi left Barcelona in 2015, following 17 trophy-laden seasons, for Qatari club Al-Sadd, where he coaches. The speculation that he could soon be returning home led to Al-Sadd saying no move was imminent.

"The issue of Xavi going to Barcelona is normal and expected because he will be at his club and it's his first home and he must return there in the future, but as of today, Xavi is the coach of Al-Sadd." Al-Sadd general manager Turki Al-Ali said in a statement on the club website.

"Xavi and his team are focusing on tomorrow's match against Al-Rayyan, and we know that a club with the size and professionalism of Barcelona will take to official channels to speak of such matters," Al-Ali said.